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The Cinemas – Cannes 2015 – Essay 1

by Travolta Cooper

Searching For Cariwood

Cannes, France – As you’re probably aware by now, the Cannes Film Festival (or Festival De Cannes) opened yesterday.  And unless you’re living under a rock, or have little interest in the world of cinema, you would know that Cannes is an annual film festival.  Wikipedia calls it “one of the most prestigious and publicized film festivals in the world”. But perhaps Wikipedia is being modest because Cannes is the most prestigious and well publicized of film festival in the world. The passion and love here for the cinema is unparalleled: so is its love and passion for red carpet glamor and nightlife.  No other region attracts filmmakers and markets from all around the globe like here in the South of France in May.

Of film festivals, Cannes is boss.

I knew that. And this is partly why I ventured here into its market last year with my film The Black Moses.  What was the other reason? I wanted to experience and feel it for myself. I hoped to learn what I could and perhaps bring some of that wisdom and power back home to the Bahamas. This is why, while there last year, we also decided to produce an episode of The Cinemas (which at the time was a small television show in the Bahamas promoting movies).  A year later The Cinemas was picked up for broadcasting by our regional television network ‘Tempo Networks’ and now I find myself here again; not to promote my own film, but to promote the world of cinema. And in the context of Tempo, this is specifically Caribbean Cinema.  While producing the Cannes segment last year, we searched for and talked to Caribbean filmmakers, most of who had short films selected for Cannes’ short film corner competition and showcase.  We also searched for booth and pavilions belonging to Caribbean countries amongst the other nations of the world.  We saw that there were film booths set up at Cannes represented by every region from all around the world; all engaged in trade and commerce. There were none from the Caribbean.

Not one.

When I shared this with our Film Commissioner Mr. Craig Woods last year, he told me that he was not surprised. He attributed this (why the Bahamas was absent) to funds. And he imagined that this was the same reason no other Caribbean nation was present.  I then wondered, but what if the Region came together? Would the funds still not be sufficient to engage in trade at Cannes? And this is partly why when we began negotiations with airing The Cinemas on Tempo; we knew that part of the purpose of the show was to be proactive in helping to bridge the gaps in the Region to bring us together. One Caribbean nation cannot do it. We all have to. So we coined the term “Cariwood” – this idea of the region coming together much like Hollywood (of America) Nollywood (of Nigeria) or Bollywood (of India). Producer Roger Bobb of Bobbcatt Film appeared on The Cinemas this year and hinted at the difficulty Cariwood because the Caribbean, unlike Nigeria or India is a Region and not a country. And Romola Lucas, CEO of Studio Anansi also hinted at the challenge because of the often “clannish” reality that exits in the region. Both have very valid and sober points and Tempo (which has made uniting the region its mandate for many years now) is also all too aware of the challenges and the reality.

But hey, we’re still going to try.

What’s life without a little challenge?  Right? And this year, the same dilemma remains. We’re here at Cannes and there’s not a booth represented by any Caribbean country. Not one. But we’re here. And for the next few days The Cinemas will aim to be that alchemical reality and hybrid of Caribbean film at this all too important festival.  We’re inviting you to join us on this adventure through video and text at Cannes as we (through all the promoting of Hollywood and World Cinemas) search for Cariwood.

Happy Festivalling!!